Oct 20, 2011

Failure is not an Option – It is a Reality


I fly a lot for work and generally have had very positive on-time and trouble-free experiences. It just so happens that recently, I fell victim to an equipment failure and lack of planning that ultimately brought me back to earth about how these issues seem to plague the transit industry. Most travelers focus on the impact to their lives and plans without thinking of the cascading effects including missed connections and schedules of all other flights dependent that day on this particular plane.

I contacted a co-worker and mentioned the issue and he joked that I should have had a redundant ticket as a “plan B.” My response was “Why put the burden on the business customer for redundancy when the airline should have a responsibility for keeping spare parts and planes?” In the real world failure is not an option, it’s a reality. Businesses that don’t have redundancy will eventually find their customers going to a competitor whose services are available all the time.

Redundancy in most real world cases may seem like a bad idea because it requires you to invest resources into non-essential components. This is not to say that all aspects of business need to be fully redundant, but each aspect should be evaluated for risks where failures can occur. Minimizing costs and maximizing coverage to prevent a critical service failure is the overall goal. In the managed hosting space, identifying the components most likely to fail and bring a customer’s solution to a halt is crucial.

If downtime is not an option, a redundant solution, or N+1, may be required. This means that one component at each level of a solution is a redundant copy and the solution can withstand a failure of one device at each level. This configuration allows a customer to have the assurance of being able to withstand a single failure or multiple failures at different levels without it impacting the integrity of the business.

As an IT Infrastructure provider, we are able to maintain an inventory of these components on hand to ensure maximum uptime…too bad my airline can’t do the same thing.

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